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Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs:
Burns

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 1031-1033 of Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs, edited by Cuyler Reynolds (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1911). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 929.1 R45. Some of the formatting of the original, especially in lists of descendants, may have been altered slightly for ease of reading.]

The Burns family of Troy, represented in the present generation by Cornelius ("Con") F. Burns, was founded in the United States by his grandfather, John Burns, born in Ireland. John Burns came to the United States and settled in Troy, New York, where he was established as an undertaker in 1830. He was a Roman Catholic in religion and was sexton of St. Peter's Church, the oldest Catholic church in the city.

(II) John W., son of John Burns, was born in Troy in 1840, died in that city in 1883. He continued and enlarged the business established by his father, and was a very popular undertaker and funeral director. He was appointed coroner by the governor. He was also in the livery business for several years. He was very charitable and gave freely of his means to all the benevolences of his church and city. He was a member of St. Peter's Roman Catholic church, and a Democrat in politics. He was married to Ellen Gorman, born in Ireland, died in Troy, February 26, 1907. He had sons,

  1. John George, married Jesse Delaney;
  2. Cornelius F.,
  3. James H.,
  4. David A., who continued the business, and
  5. Nellie M.

John George Burns, the eldest son, was the head of the family and of the business until his death, when he was succeeded by his brothers, Cornelius F., James H., and David A. Burns. David A. survived his brother only eighteen months, since which time the business has been conducted by Cornelius F. and James H. Their father, John W. Burns, had so increased his business that it was the leading undertaking establishment of the city.

(III) James Henry, son of John W. and Ellen (Gorman) Burns, was born in Troy. He was educated in the public schools, St. Peter's parochial school, La Salle Institute and Troy Business College. He was taken into the business, and on the death of John George Burns, about six months after his father's, the business descended to James H. and Cornelius F., the surviving brothers. They have continued the business with marked success. He is a director of the Security Steel and Iron Company, of Troy, and interested along various other lines of activity. He was a member of St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, and an adherent to Democratic principles. He served several years in the volunteer fire department and was a member of the Exempt Fireman's Association, the Laureate Boat Club, the Young Men's Christian Association, the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, (not an active member), and the Arba Read Steamer Company, a part of the volunteer department. He married, August 3, 1909, at Troy, Jessie A. Kehn, born in Troy, daughter of Jonas Kehn, born in Germany, died in Troy.

(III) Cornelius Francis ("Con. F."), son of John W. and Ellen (Gorman) Burns, was born in Troy, New York. He was educated in the public schools, St. Peter's parochial school and La Salle Academy. He was a very young man when he and his brother James H. assumed control of the extensive business interests left by their father. He has applied his energy and ability to such good advantage that the firm of J. W. Burns' Sons is the very foremost undertaking establishment in Troy. He is thorough master of his profession, progressive, honorable and upright in his business methods. He is a director and treasurer of the Security Steel Company, elected to the latter office in 1907. In 1906 he was elected president of the Troy Chamber of Commerce, and has been twice re-elected, proving a most efficient officer and making this chamber an aggressive and useful body. The Troy Press says: "By the constitutional limitation of his term, President Cornelius F. Burns retires. Mr. Burns has set an example of aggressive, industrious and vigilant effort in behalf of the Chamber of Commerce and of Troy's interests. For three years he has given freely of time and money, with an unlagging enthusiasm for Troy's progress, which has placed him in the front rank of the public-spirited citizens of this municipality. He deserved the demonstration of esteem which attended his farewell utterances last night." During the administration of Governor Black (1898) he was appointed to the then newly created Board of Embalming Examiners. He was largely instrumental in the framing and passage of the act creating the board and his appointment was in recognition of his standing in the profession. He has been successively reappointed up to the present (1910). At this writing the last official act of Governor Hughes before his retirement to assume the duties of United States justiceship was the reappointment of Mr. Burns to his present position in the state board. He is a member of the state and local associations of funeral directors, Troy Lodge, No. 141, Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, the Knights of Columbus, Trojan Hook and Ladder Company, and the Island Golf Club, and director of the Rensselaer County Fair Association, and Troy Driving Club. Since the age of twenty he has been prominently connected with public celebrations, great fairs and civic demonstrations. He first came into prominence outside of business relations in the fire department where he was one of the most active members of the Trojan Hook and Ladder Company, No. 3, Troy volunteer fire department. He held the office of vice-president of the company and is now (1910) president, having held that office since 1902. The company includes among its members many of the most influential men of the city and is noted for its social functions. Mr. Burns and his fine horses have always been a feature of their out-door events. The various hospitals and charitable institutions that raise funds from annual fairs are always eager for his services as president, and hardly a fair has been held in his time in the city that he has not been the directing head. His interest in these charitable institutions has not been confined to his public work, but he has bestowed upon them substantial favors of other kinds. Upon the occasion of the corner-stone laying of the Soldiers' and Sailors' monument and later at its dedication, he was division commander of the parade, and at Troy's Centennial celebration General Joseph Carr assigned him an important division. On the occasion of President McKinley's visit to Troy in 1897, Mr. Burns was in charge of the celebration which included a street parade, the grandest ever seen in Troy up to that time. He was personally complimented by the president and by Secretary of War Alger for the precision with which each detail was carried out and the good judgment shown in the handling of the presidential party. Captain Jack Cranford, the "poet scout," in a poem written at the time dubbed him the "Young Napoleon." He was general manager of the Cosmovilla "Fair of the Nations" given at the armory in Troy in December, 1907.

During Old Home Week Celebration in Troy, 1908, his most excellent work as chairman of the executive committee was plainly manifested. The Troy Times says —

"Home Week goes down into history as the most notable and crowning success of all the City's festivals."

"The Chamber of Commerce licked the Celebration into shape and its General Sheridan — C. F. Burns, President of the Chamber of Commerce, and Chairman of the executive committee, was an omnipresent genius."

These instances but illustrate his great activity in matters of public interest, and the charitable, sympathetic nature that inspire his efforts in behalf of the poor and homeless of his city, and make him a leader in all the functions designed to raise money for their support in the various public institutions of Troy. His recent activity in helping to raise the one hundred thousand dollars for Troy Hospital is well known. During the Hudson-Fulton celebration of 1909, his untiring energy covering a period of many months as chairman of the Troy executive committee received its full reward. Troy was awarded the prize (a beautiful Hudson-Fulton flag) for the excellence of its celebration. Mr. Burns received the most flattering commendation of the press and from the officials who had inspected and witnessed the greatest celebration in American history, a celebration covering a period of two weeks and extending from New York City to Troy, and participated in by every important city along the Hudson river. Troy excelled them all for decorations, illuminations, parades and variety of program. The Troy Standard said,

"If there is one man who deserves credit more than another, it is Cornelius F. Burns, on whom devolved the greatest responsibility for Troy's celebration. Patiently and unselfishly and dominated solely by a sense df civic pride, he worked incessantly for weeks and months looking carefully after every detail and meeting many obstacles which would have discouraged a less determined man. His experience, too, in similar events, but of less magnitude, was a valuable aid. Troy owes a debt of gratitude to Mr. Burns which she will not be slow in acknowledging."

General Stewart L. Woodford, president of the state committee, said, at the closing of the two weeks' celebration, "I have discovered three men in this great celebration, and, were I to again have charge of a similar affair, I would select Herman Ridder for finances; Captain Miller for naval affairs and my young friend, C. F. Burns, of Troy, for charge of land demonstrations. Troy Times says: "One man gave his time and money and effort for months, as he has done on more than one occasion before, with just as devoted a purpose as the explorer or inventor, and that was Con. F. Burns." As a commander of parades he has been frequently called upon to render his services. As grand marshal of Democratic parades he manifests his political preference, but he takes no active part in politics. There is no office in the gift of Troy Democracy he could not have had, but he steadfastly refuses political preferment. In "doing things" for Troy, its hospitals, asylums and charities, he probably has no peer in the city, and that, too, in the face of the fact that he is a very busy man in private life. One of his great delights is in owning, driving and riding good horses. During the days of the Park Club Driving Association, one of the best gentlemen's driving clubs in northern New York, he was president of the club and thoroughly interested in its welfare. He is, to quote again from the local press, "A typical American, gentlemanly, affable, courteous in manner, frank in his relations, and a sterling type of citizen."

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